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Faldo & McGinley predict close Royal Trophy

European stalwarts Nick Faldo and Paul McGinley are predicting a closely-fought showdown with Asia when the inaugural Royal Trophy begins here at the weekend.

The Ryder Cup-style shootout pits Asia against Europe for the first time at the impressive Amata Spring Country Club on the outskirts of Bangkok and Faldo, a legend of the game with six major titles under his belt, believes it will be touch and go.

"It will be close," said Faldo today. " Asia has the advantage of home territory and their players do not have to deal with the time zone change. That will be tough for us. We will be banking on the guys whom we know are playing well.

"Our team looks quite strong. They have thrown in the old boys in there to tell them some old Ryder Cup stories. I'm slightly rusty. I've come from swinging like mad in a garage in Switzerland and doing some power walking to get ready for this. It was minus 15 celcius on some days there and to come into 33 degrees here, it will be a challenge," added the Englishman.

Ireland 's McGinley, fresh from a career best third place finish on the European Tour Order of Merit last season, knows Asia will come out with all guns blazing in their bid to win The Royal Trophy on home soil. "Asians do have an advantage being here.

"But in saying this, we have a strong side, a strong captain and we will put in a strong performance," said McGinley, best remembered for holing the winning putt in Europe's Ryder Cup win over the United States in 2002.

" Asia is strong as well. If we had this game seven or eight years ago, it would be a whitewash for Europe . But that will not be the case now. I know how strong these Asian guys are, they are very strong and I've got a lot of respect for them."

The 47-year-old Faldo will certainly be counted upon by Europe 's non-playing captain Seve Ballesteros to rally the troops alongside another veteran Ian Woosnam of Wales . Faldo is a renowned matchplay competitor, underscored by the fact that he is the all-time points scorer for Europe in the Ryder Cup.

Faldo said he readily accepted Ballesteros' invitation to join the squad for this historic showdown. " I think it's a great new idea. To come in this direction at this time of the year, it's good to get the season off early," he said

"We shall see how it all goes this week. It's a team event and every one is keen and want to win. We will be out to do our best here. I got a phone call from Ian that we were being picked and my reaction was 'don't crash the car' as I was driving then. "It will be interesting to see what happens at the end of the week."

McGinley could be one of Europe 's trump cards after a sterling season where he claimed one title and registered three other runner-up finishes. The fiery Irishman is also a staunch supporter of matchplay competitions and is looking forward to challenging Asia's best players including Thailand's Thaworn Wiratchant, last season's Asian Tour number one, Zhang Lian-wei of China, India's Arjun Atwal and Japan's Yasuharu Imano and Keiichiro Fukabori.

"I'm looking forward to it. Any opportunity I get to represent Europe is a great honour and I'm looking forward to it, especially under Seve's captaincy," said McGinley.

"We have a strong Tour at the moment, a lot stronger in depth now. Any team that we put out will be a very strong one."

Thaworn, meanwhile, will be aiming to shine on home ground after a record breaking season where he won four titles to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit for the first time in his career. He was thoroughly impressed with Amata Spring, saying it was an ideal setting for the historic showdown.

"The course is beautiful and it will be a good test. The par three eighth hole which has an island green could be an interesting test for us. The course is quite long and is the ideal venue for this event. I'm looking forward to it and challenging Europe for the first time. Europe has a strong side and they could be the slight favourites.," said the Thai.

The first day of competition on Saturday will see four fourball matches in the morning session, followed by another four matches of foursomes (alternate shot format) in the afternoon. The second and final day will see eight matches of singles being played.

The Royal Trophy is sanctioned by the Asian Tour, Japan Golf Tour Organisation and European Tour.

Asian Team : Thaworn Wiratchant (Tha), Thongchai Jaidee (Tha), Jyoti Randhawa (Ind), Yasuharo Imano (Jpn), Keiichiro Fukabori (Jpn), SK Ho (Kor), Arjun Atwal (Ind captain's pick), Zhang Lian-wei (Chn captain's pick)

Captain: Massy Kuramoto (JPN)

European Team: David Howell (Eng), Paul McGinley (Ire), Henrik Stenson (Swe), Thomas Bjorn (Den), Kenneth Ferrie (Eng), Graeme McDowell (NIR), Nick Faldo (Eng captain's pick), Ian Woosnam (Wal captain's pick)

Captain: Seve Ballesteros (ESP)

January 4, 2006


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